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The Quest for the Best Hot Dog

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Then some corporate types bought Levis'.  First thing they did was give it a thorough scouring.  The place shined, sparkled.  After that, Levis was never the same, the hot dogs and combos (hot dog and fish cake) never tasted as good.  Levis' passed on a year or three after the corporate cleaning.  Along with the grease and grime the corporate types had scrubbed away Levis' history, heritage and character.

I sympathize with your disdain for "Corporate Food=aterias" pushing out the smaller homespun institutions. Is it very rare that I eat at any chain restaurant because of my desire to support local businesses. But...your statement of a spic & span environment relation to lower food quality raised my eyebrows. I've had a few hole-in-the-wall joints close to my dismay - but there may be a little undiscovered jewel around the corner. Change is always inevitable just like gettin' old.

Greasy Spoons everywhere - I salute you !

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I have to chime in with your list regarding Jimmy Buff's. There was one near me in West Orange, NJ when I was growing up and I remember going to get one of the dogs with peppers and onions. It was so messy and hard to eat but so tasty. Thanks for bringing back those memories.....

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My vote is definately for Rutt's Hutt in Cliffton NJ. I believe that when it comes to hot dogs, you must look beyond all health concerns. Rutts Hut, tosses their dogs in a vat of boiling oil and the place serves it up simply.

Also Johhny and Angies in Clifton as well. A real NJ small dog place where you can get on "all the way" which is a dog with a mixture on top of some chili-like substance that is to die for. But in true NJ fashion it's belted out in one long slurred order..."Onealaway!"

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I second Rutt's. This is a unique dog especially made for deep frying. Produced by Thumann's and different than their regular dog for grilling. It is over 80% pork and has semolina and soy protein added to aid in frying. A few North Jersey places use this dog. Libby's, Hiram's, Goffle Grill, and Eagan's before they were turned into a Rite Aid (a real tragedy).

What makes Rutt's better in my opinion is that the dogs are cooked to different degrees of doneness. In and outers (cooked the minimum) rippers (most of them are cooked till the skin rips from the oil) wellers (well done) and cremators (black). I like the rippers and wellers. The other thing that makes this place better than other places using the same dog cooked this way is their unique relish. I don't like any other relish, and usually have just mustard on my dog; or chili sauce occasionally; but you have to try this relish. It is shipped all over the country.

Some people hate Rutt's including my family. These are people long accostumed to all beef kosher style dogs which Rutt's isn't. Two different types of dogs; both great. For an all beef kosher style dog, the best around the NY/NJ would be Syd's, Father & Son, Boulevard Drinks, Papaya King and Katz's. The last three use Sabrett's with natural casing.

A great beef/pork dog that is grilled can be found at the Galloping Hill Inn in Union. A great subtle flavor of beef and pork. Get it with just mustard and not chili. Their chili is lousy and detracts from the dog. This is what I think accounts for the lower rating on Holly's site. I think this dog is superior to Max's (Shickhaus) and the Windmill (Sabrett special pork and beef). Made specially for the Galloping Hill Inn by Grote and Weigel of Conn.

The best Texas Weiners are found at Libby's and the Hot Grill. Tommy's in Elizabeth makes the best Italian Hot Dog in the world. Better than Jimmy Buff's. Better bread, and potatoes, and not nearly as greasy, although some people prefer that.

For cooking at home, nothing beats Usinger Beef franks. The next best are Dietz and Watson New York Style Franks and the Black Bear Brand sold exclusively at Shop Rite. Those of you who have access to a Shop Rite have to try this brand. I noticed that Black Bear is almost exactly the same as Dietz and Watson. I spoke with someone from Shop Rite who said the entire Black Bear product line is produced exclusively for Shop Rite by Dietz and Watson. Everything they make is excellent. Their roast beef is the best I've ever had, and this includes Thumann's and Boar's Head. Usinger's Franks are only available via mail order.

John the hot dog guy

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I like the NYC Papaya King alot. The Philly one is kinda dead and doesn't sell enought dogs to keep everything fresh.

Trouble is there are way to many great hot dog places out there. Let's say Papaya King came in number 11.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."



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Nathan's and Papaya King in NY and although I love a dog I can't say that I have done much research out-side of NY. The one place that I found had the most interesting Perro Caliente was in Venezuela. There is a sort of street food culture built around Perros, Arepas, Hamburgesas. The typical Perro is a thin light colored sausage served on a steamed white bread bun and topped with everything and the kitchen sink, shredded cabbage, raw onions, chopped tomato, mustard, hot sauce, garlic sauce, crushed potato chips and grated parmesan-like cheese. Although you don't really taste the sausage (maybe a good thing) I loved them.

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Great site! I am a third generation hot dog fanatic (and my 4 year old son is the 4th).

I lived in Fort Lee NJ until I was 9, and Callahans and Hirams were an everyday lunch ritual with dad.

My grandfather use to take me to Coney Island for Nathens, and Shea stadium to see the Mets and get Ball Parks.

We moved from Fort Lee to Passiac, which is right next to Clifton when I was 10.

Had my first Rutts Hutt dog and fell in love...My favorite to this very day.

Also had Hot Grill in Clifton, not bad.

There was a hot dog truck in Passaic, which was outrageous..."Cousin Joes" it was called.


I have no idea what happened to him, he went from a pushcart, to a van, to a three window truck in no time, and had to hire several people to work for him. He had an incredible amount of business, but then he was gone. If anyone has any information on "Joe", please let me know. He had anything you could ever imagine to put on a hot dog, and if you asked for something he didn't have, he would have it next time you came, and name that dog after you. This was about early - mid 80's I guess.

Moved to Essex County, and would hit JJ's or Chris's Red Hots in newark/bloomfield. Also, Jimmy Buffs is a must visit.

There also use to be an italian hot dog joint on Washington Ave. in belleville, called B&Ts. Good stuff. Gone now too.

After I got married, moved to the Poconos we would take trips on the weekend to Hot Dog Johnnys on RT. 46 just over the jersey line.

Well, I guess I've been lucky to have been fortunate enough to have eatin at so many of the "best" dog houses all my life, but now I live in georgia and have to drive an hour to get a good dog.

It is worth the trip though. There is a place in Brunswick called "Willies", and his "Bulldog" is truly a great dog. A grilled porker on a seeded bun smothered in mustard, ketchup, tomatoe, cole slaw, raw onion, and pickles. He also serves hot peppers on the side with your order.

hmmm... I think I feel a drive coming on.

~ The Weenie Meister ~

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  • 3 weeks later...

I live in the Chicagoland area and agree that Fluky's and Wolfy's have good hot dogs. Another great place is Portillos, we didn't have one in the neighborhood I grew up in, and after the first taste I was hooked. I ate them practically everyday until I almost od'd ...but their hot dogs are still darn tasty. They're boiled and served on a steamed bun. (Portillos used to serve a lemon cake that was out of this world, but they stopped a couple of years ago)

However, in my search for the best store bought hot dog, I think Nathan's are the best. They don't have a Nathan's here and I'd heard alot about the hot dogs, so when I saw them at my local market, I had to try them...they're great with the skin that "pops" when you bite into em'...yum!!!!

As a side note, I just hate the new imitation green relish that most restaurants have now...what's up with that? It just looks weird...and it doesn't taste good either.

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How far is Clifton from Upper East side of NYC? I was just reading an article about "top dogs" and it lists Rutt's Hut (route 21 - Northern NJ) as the best. After reading some of the reviews on this board - I am thinking of a road trip.

It also lists Bear's Hot Dogs in Sayreville, NJ on Route 615 - Anybody been?

I am not from NYC - so don't know NJ very well, but I have access to a car and am willing to travel for a good dog.


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John - The magazine is Unlimited - it's an adventure/outdoor sports and travel magazine. Good articles on hiking and mountain biking, as well as, on happenings (festivals, contests, clubs) along the East Coast.

I don't put much faith in the food/restaurant reviews, but this one caught my eye because it was in NJ, and involved one of my loves - the hot dog.

If you want - PM me and I'll send you the article.


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  • 21 years later...
17 hours ago, MetsFan5 said:

I didn’t see any hotdogs with sugar added


The homepage says  the dogs are 'topped with a sprinkle of sugar'. Maybe that's optional. 


I'd try one with hot cheetos or ramen, and the fries.

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1 hour ago, Kim Shook said:

Koreans have a knack for taking foods, trends, etc. from other cultures and making them even more inviting.  


You're not gonna try to convince me, @Kim Shook, that one of those dogs is better than a classic Nathan's or Katz's hot dog, dressed with mustard and sauerkraut. Or, as they used to say: "Gimme a Frank Sinatra, fully dressed!" (Are you?)

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I think they’re a totally different class of hot dogs. 

I personally view them more as concession type of treat for lack of a better term. I don’t think you can compare them. 

I love a McDonald’s cheeseburger on occasion. I appreciate my local tavern’s burger. I prefer grilling my own but I live in an apartment now. And my Tovala isn’t programmed to grill! 😆


everything has its place at times. 


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